Wow. 90 minutes of a finale episode and not a second wasted. The first season of the new FX series Fargo had its ups and (mostly) downs during the 10 episode run, but in a finale you seek a payoff and in this one, you got it.
This episode picked up where the penultimate episode left off, after the apparent murder of Lester Nygaard’s (second) wife by Lorne Malvo. I’ve got to hand it to Lester, that by now (more than a year after the events of episode 1) he is an expert at covering his tracks. In the scene that follows, Lester (played just masterfully by Martin Freeman) discovers his wife’s body, and puts the car keys in her hands. Then, he proceeds to Lou’s diner where he pretends she dropped him off. Lester effortlessly crafts his story and notifies the police of the gunshots, all while having a simple conversation with Lou. I think one of the most underrated and unnoticed actors from this show HAS to be Keith Carradine. His portrayal of Lou is layered, smart, and believable. Lou had a scene with Lester this week that nearly (but not quite) measured up to his scene last week with Malvo. Carradine’s ability to convey several emotions over simple conversation is not easily accomplished, but I can feel so much coming from him in these simple diner scenes. Brilliant.
Following the discovery of Lester’s wife’s body, Molly and Bill are on the scene with Lester, and it results in one of the greatest scenes in Fargo to date. Lester has to feign surprise and shock, while his office becomes a crime scene. This is one of those Coen-esque scenes that can be violent in nature but also makes you (me) laugh out loud. Bill’s dimwitted nature and his inability to handle situations his job calls for often makes me laugh, especially in contrast to Molly’s professionalism and Lester’s deviousness. But really, between Freeman, Bob Odenkirk and Allison Tolman, I can’t overstate how well this scene was acted.
Post murder, the Bemidji PD joins forces with FBI’s Pepper and Budge, and they interrogate Lester. They worry that Malvo has returned, and Lester doesn’t talk, but his eyes and actions all but confirm that this new mystery killer does indeed mark the return of Lorne Malvo. “He’s not gonna stop”, Molly tells Lester before the scene ends, although I’m certain at this point that Lester knows that.
Following Lester’s release, Molly and Gus have a heartbreaking (maybe warming, looking back) conversation about Malvo being back. Gus is obviously afraid he will lose his family, and Molly promises to work the case from the office. At the end of their conversation, however, Gus finds Malvo’s car and the place he’s been staying. Gus waits for Malvo to leave, and then enters the shack (by which time I’m yelling NO GUS PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS). I have to admit, I was terrified.
From this point forward the momentum is rolling downhill. Malvo is able to best the FBI agents while they’re guarding Lester’s house, which brought an unfortunate end to Agents Pepper and Budge. These two were masterfully cast and played excellently by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. I laughed, I cried. Well done, Key & Peele.
Malvo and Lester follow up with an epic confrontation in Lester’s home, in which Malvo steps in a bear trap, but evades Lester. Lester is satisfied, however, that Malvo has been chased off. Malvo then returns to his cabin to set his very serious wounds, but once that is done, he is confronted and then shot (several times) by none other than Gus Grimly!! I cheered. What an excellent payoff!! However, the series is not finished paying off for the fans of Gus and Molly. Gus is hailed a hero, and the crime scene investigated. When Molly arrives, Gus shows her a briefcase of Malvo’s, with tapes in it. Including the tape of his conversation with Lester after the murder of his wife. She now has the evidence she sought all along to put Lester away.
Of course, Lester always has to make things interesting, so instead of just being caught and arrested, he gets involved in a high speed snowmobile chase in Glacier National Park. When he crashes the snowmobile, he continues to run out on to a patch of thin ice, and falls through it. You got your just desserts, Lester Nygaard, and they were served cold (I know that was bad, but laugh anyway please)!
Our series ends on a happy note (which is so rare on television nowadays), with Molly taking over as police chief and Gus getting a citation for bravery. Their little family (that you can’t help but root for out of the gate) is beautiful, and gives everything a positive ending. This show was excellently done, and it left me feeling pretty darn good at the end.
You’ll have to forgive me for missing (until last weekend) the “Malvo is Satan” thing. Once I realized that, everything locked into place for me. I more than understood Malvo’s motivation, and Billy Bob Thornton did a masterful job portraying him!
I can’t give out a superlative this week, because all of our main players were on the top of their game. Thornton, Freeman, Tolman, Carradine, Odenkirk, and Colin Hanks all shined in the finale. There is some serious talent in this series, and if you have not watched it, I would suggest you do so immediately.
I’m interested to see where the show will go from here. I’m told there will be a new story and all new characters, but it would be pretty cool if they have a few direct tie-ins to Season 1. Overall, this was a fantastic season of television, so after the Critic’s Choice Awards, expect to hear about Fargo a few more times.
[Photo via FX]